The Concussion Legacy Foundation (learn more about us here) supports legislation that will protect the brains of young children by banning tackle football for our youngest and most vulnerable athletes. Our support is based on what we know about the risks of concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Tackle football is an exciting game to watch adults play, but it was never meant for young children with fragile, developing brains. Five-year-olds should not be getting hit in the head hundreds of times each fall.
Repetitive Head Impacts are linked to diseases like CTE and Parkinson's Disease
86 percent (211 of 246) of football players studied at the Boston University CTE Center have been diagnosed with CTE, and risk appears to be linked to how many years they played (11 of 29 high school players had CTE, while 110 of 111 professional players had CTE). 86 percent does not represent the prevalence of CTE in football players, as families are more likely to donate if their loved one had symptoms associated with CTE.
Another Boston University study found athletes who played nine or more years of contact sports were six times more likely to develop Lewy Body Disease, a cause of Parkinson's, than those who played eight or fewer years.
Head impacts are more dangerous for developing brains
Children as young as nine years old average 251 head impacts per season. Studies have revealed those who started tackle football before age 12 were more likely to have cognitive, mood and behavior issues as adults, and showed symptoms of neurodegenerative disease like CTE and Alzheimer's disease decades earlier.
Youth Football Cannot Reform Itself
Other sports like soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse have made major reforms to protect the brains of children. US Soccer has banned heading for children under age 11. USA Hockey does not allow checking until age 13. US Lacrosse has banned body checking under age 14. But football lacks an influential national governing body through which to set an age minimum. Legislation is the best way to enact such a rule.
Football Coaches Support Legislation
Resources to Learn More
The Concussion Legacy Foundation launched Flag Football Under 14 to encourage parents to delay enrolling their children in tackle football until age 14. Read the scientific reasoning in our White Paper.
Why did we choose age 14? Check out our infographic.
Click here to read why football legends like Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Jim Harbaugh and John Madden think waiting to play tackle football is the safest and best option for youth athletes.
Click here to learn more about CTE.
View information about tackle football legislation state by state:
Tackle football legislation has been introduced in California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Click on each state to learn more about local legislation efforts.
The Safe Youth Football Act (AB 2108) was introduced in 2018 by Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and Kevin McCarty. The act would establish a minimum age of 12 years old for children to play organized tackle football in California. Editorials from the LA Times, the Mercury News, and the San Diego Union Tribune all voiced support of the bill.
"The Golden State's children need to know that no touchdown or interception is worth long-term damage to their brains caused by tackle football," said Assemblyman McCarty.
In January 2018, Illinois State Rep. Carol Sente introduced the Dave Duerson Act to Prevent CTE (HB 4341), which would end organized tackle football for youth under age 12 in Illinois. Rep. Sente introduced the bill with a coalition of supporters including Dave's son Tregg Duerson, Duerson's former teammate Otis Wilson, former Chicago Bear and TV broadcaster Mike Adamle, Liz Nicholson, the wife of former NFL player Gerry Sullivan, and Chris Nowinski, Ph.D., CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
"When my father tragically took his own life, he donated his brain to science in hopes of being part of the solution," said Tregg Duerson, who also played football at Notre Dame. "Thanks to increased attention and research on brain trauma, we know that part of the solution is to guard young children's developing brains from the risks of tackle football. This bill honors my family's hopes and my father's legacy to protect future athletes and the future of football."
In 2018, Delegate Terri Hill proposed legislation (House Bill 1210) that would prohibit children from playing tackle football on public fields until they reach high school. The legislation was filed in the Senate by Senator William C. Smith Jr.
"This is about a vulnerable population and developing brains," said Hill, who is a physician. "It's a public health issue."
Former University of Maryland star and NFL player Madieu Williams is working with Hill and Smith on the legislation. "I had to look at it not only as a former football player but as a parent," Williams said. "Knowing the research coming out on traumatic brain injuries forced me to look at it from a different perspective."
In 2019, Massachusetts State Rep. Paul Schmid III and Rep. Bradley Jones introduced legislation (Bill H.2007) that would ban tackle football for children in seventh grade and younger in Massachusetts. The bill is called An Act for No Organized Head Impacts To Schoolchildren (NO HITS).
"Soccer has age restrictions for head contact. Lacrosse has age restrictions. Hockey has age restrictions for head contact. Football doesn't," said Rep. Schmid.
In 2018, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle introduced legislation (A3760) that would ban tackle football for children under 12 years of age in New Jersey, citing the greater risks of neurological diseases for those who start playing contact sports at a younger age.
"This is a proactive piece of legislation," Huttle told NJ Advance Media. "I understand the point of view from coaches and parents. I expected a pushback. But I think I'm creating a conversation."
In 2018, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto reintroduced legislation first filed in 2012 that would ban youth tackle football for children under 12 years of age. Assemblyman Benedetto named his amended bill the John Mackey Youth Football Protection Act (A1269) after New York-born John Mackey, the star NFL tight end who died with CTE in 2011.
Mackey was the first president of the NFL Players Association, where he fought for better benefits for players. Mackey's widow, Sylvia Mackey, cared for John during his 11-year decline from frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and CTE. Sylvia has carried on John's legacy through the 88 Plan, named for his jersey number, which now provides assistance to players affected by neurologically debilitating diseases. "I'm certain that if he knew what we know now, he definitely would have wanted to protect the children as much as possible and this football bill is a great start," Sylvia said in a 2018 interview. Read the full interview.